African schools look to value-based training
Tutors at United Methodist institutions are learning more about Christian leadership skills as part of a training sponsored by the Norwegian Partnership in Development — a cooperative program among United Methodist churches in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Zimbabwe.
A weeklong training in “Value-Based Leadership” at the United Methodist University in Freetown ended Sept. 29.
The training aimed, among other things, to create an awareness of Christian leadership skills — including having value for others, focusing on morality and ethics, running a corruption-free institution and combating the growing challenge on the African Continent of exams malpractices in tertiary institutions.
“The project we are talking about here is training of trainers – we are training Liberians and Sierra Leoneans to go back to their countries or stations to teach what we call VBL - Value-based Leadership,” explained Victor Massaquoi, vice chairman for the West Africa PID Regional Center. “We are talking about personal values, communities, national and church value systems.”
Participants were mainly tutors identified by both the United Methodist University in Sierra Leone and the United Methodist University in Liberia. Staff at the two universities also will be trained to develop a research tradition rooted in VBL and, to some extent, other social sciences methodology and theological framework.
The idea of the training is to make sure rural community development takes a grassroots approach, where the people decide what projects are needed,
Asked why Sierra Leone Annual Conference staff members were attending the training, Massaquoi said there was a serious deficiency of leadership across the world and that leadership is a fundamental problem in Africa, specifically.
“… by training the staff of the UMC Conference of Sierra Leone, our hope is for them to go back and reflect on the leadership skills, qualities and values that we have spoken about for the last three days. And hopefully we will begin to see some gradual changes along the way in respect of leadership,” Massaquoi said on day four of the training.
Those who attended the value-based leadership training are expected to train their own students ,to inculcate the concept when they graduate which will guide their performance when they move into the working society.
“In West Africa, most of our values have eroded or are being abused, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone (which) experienced brutal civil conflicts,” said the Rev. George Weagba, who serves as vice president in the research department of the United Methodist University in Liberia.
He believes the training was essential to make United Methodist universities stand out in restoring values in the respective societies because the issues of corruption, bribery, extortion and general abuse still continue in the post-conflict countries.
It is hoped that the concept will create a new set of citizens who will right the wrongs of value erosion that occurred as a result of the civil conflicts of the 1990s. Developing a curriculum on value-based leadership for students from United Methodist universities in Liberia and Sierra Leone is part of the research project the regional center is working on and would, in the near future, roll out as modules.
The United Methodist University of Sierra Leone is the brainchild of Bishop John Yambasu who envisions it to be a “center of excellence with a focus on the production of individuals with moral integrity and the ability to positively transform lives in society.”
The main campus will be on 215 hectares (531 acres) of land at Pa Loko in rural Freetown, which was willed to the church in 1939 by an Anglican amazed by what Methodism was doing in Sierra Leone at the time.
Though initially proposed to start with four faculties — the schools of nursing, of theology, of development studies and of agriculture — the United Methodist University in Sierra Leone started classes Oct. 9 with the faculty of theology after a weeklong orientation at Leicester Peak, the highest point overlooking Freetown. Thirteen students have registered for the degree program, while 20 students have enrolled for chaplaincy.
The other faculties will be integrated as they become ready. The university will officially open in January, the Director of Planning, Research and Development, Edwin Momoh, said in an interview with UMNS.
Furnishing and equipping of the newly constructed School of Nursing in the southern city of Bo is underway.
Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone.